Riviera: The Promised Land (Wonderswan) 2002

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Riviera: The Promised Land (Wonderswan) 2002

Postby PikaFiend » Sat May 09, 2015 6:34 pm

Before I begin, I would like to explain the way I'll be doing things here and in further reviews I plan to do. I will try to do one a week, just for something to keep myself busy. So, firstly, I will not be saying anything about cheats or cheat devices for the games I'll cover. This is mostly because I will be covering older games exclusively, nothing from the current console generation, or the last one. This is partly because there are a lot of really, really good older games and quite a few I'll cover are less well known ones. I will also not be explaining storylines, apart from introduction to the main characters of each game, as in the ones you control and view the games from the perspective of. So there shouldn't be any spoilers present, I want to leave the stories to people who may get interested to discover on their own. Finally, I will not be using any point or grading systems. They're mostly arbitrary and I only intend to put my thoughts and experiences here. With that out of the way, let's get stuck into it.

Riviera: The Promised Land

Riviera is an RPG that was originally released on Wonderswan in 2002 (Later on GBA in 2004, localized by Atlus USA and an enhanced remake for PSP in 2006). It was the first in what is currently a five part series known as Dept. Heaven. It follows Ein, a Grim Angel, as he learns about his own abilities and world. The story is very deep and well fleshed out, giving plenty of humour, deep emotional moments, action and feelings of urgency. The characters you meet are unique and well done, nothing feels out of place or forced.

Gameplay

This game deviates quite a bit from most other RPGs in the way it plays. Yes, it is turn based, you select your action and watch what happens as you would in standard JRPGs. However, the way it works is far different. Each of your characters is able to learn new skills from most of the weapons and items available in the game. Depending on what you take into battle, as you select your actions for the turn, you'll notice bars under certain items, differing character to character. Each bar represents a use. Upon using the items a certain amount of times, and again, this varies by character, they will learn a character unique skill. Depending on the item and character in question, they could be new, more powerful offensive skills, healing skills or various buffs. In order to use skills, characters must fill a shared bar by taking actions. The bar will fill differently depending upon what action is taken and, in the case of offensive skills, how many hits and how much damage it deals. I love this system because it forces strategy and planning so that you make sure you can do the right thing at the right time. The developers were smart, though, as there are finite battles in the game. There are no random encounters. Accounting for that, they implemented a training system, where you can infinitely battle without sacrificing any in-game turns, and thus score. In that, you are given the option to fight any enemy team you've already encountered and can train your characters well.

Now, speaking of finite battles and in-game turns and score, we will go over the way you navigate the world. Just as the game deviates a bit from the standard battle controls, it also moves away from free roaming a bit. In order to navigate, depending on the screen you're on, you're given the choice to go in the cardinal directions. By pressing select, IIRC, on each screen, you may also view things you're able to examine or do actions towards. These can range anywhere from simply looking at something and discovering an item, or doing a number of minigames, such as pressing a certain button within the indicated range. They add an extra degree of difficulty in getting some of the better items, or quest items, other than just locating them. It can be frustrating. Likewise, even moving from screen to screen can be met with having to do one of said minigames in order to jump across a gap or break down a door. Failure in either instance can lead to not getting the item you were after, or landing in a previous or difficult screen, even taking a health hit. All of the actions taken in battle will effect the points you earn for it and what equipments and items may drop. How many turns it takes for you to navigate from the beginning of the level to beating the boss will effect the same things and your overall game score, which in turn may effect how your NG+ might play out.

Moving away from control systems, there's a dating sim element to the game. You are able to build affection with your various party members. This can effect events in game to varying degrees. Again, I won't be spoiling, but it's a key element of the game I won't ignore. Since I won't be spoiling, I'll wrap this part up quickly. There are two ways to build affection. The first is through the many choices you will make over the course of the game. Some of them will affect a single character positively or negatively, others will have those effects on one or all of the others at once. It adds a further element of strategy to the game, while also often leading to pretty funny scenes. The second is having them finish the last enemy in a battle. The person who finishes the battle, other than Ein, will gain a bit of affection for him.

Design

This game, especially for a title developed in the early years of the 2000s, is beautiful. The worlds you travel to are done with excruciating detail. From the vivid colours in some, to the drab, dull and very atmospheric colours of others, the designers definitely went to great pains to make sure you, the player, saw what the characters were seeing. I cannot praise them enough for the world they created. The atmosphere in each of the various areas you'll go to really projects what its supposed to. I wish I could go into more detail, but I want people to experience these things for themselves.

Along with the levels, the characters are well designed and written. Each of the party members and NPCs is, for the most part, a unique personality unto themselves. Further, their character models, both the in-game sprites, and their actual character art, are both beautiful and adorable. They -are- slightly simplistic, as the game is more cutesy than gritty, but for the overall design of the game's world, they're beautifully done and fit wonderfully into into it.

Music/Sound

While not important for me generally, I understand that many people want their games to have good soundtracks. Riviera's music was well done. The tracks worked well for the worlds they played in. Conveying the creepiness, cheeriness, urgency and excitement they should, when they should. Whether it was exciting, fast paced battle music, or a more laid back and upbeat tone in the home area, the music didn't feel out of place. Furthermore, the game contains a surprising amount of voice acting for an older handheld title. The characters have battle cries before their various skills, and victory lines after battle. Depending on who lands the killing blow, that character will say something about winning. IIRC, there are also snippets here and there during the rest of the gameplay and scenes.

Overall/Summary

Now, let me preface this with, the game is certainly not for everyone. There are definitely going to be people that will be frustrated by certain elements of this game, some times myself included. Be they the obscure quest lines to get certain items for certain characters, the minigames which have clocks that can be too fast for some to react to, or that a lot of the affection choices are not obvious and could lead to things you didn't want, people will definitely be frustrated. That having been said, if you're looking for an RPG that is overall very light, with plenty of humour and things to evoke empathy and emotions towards your characters, this is probably going to be fun for you to play. The characters are likable and well written. There's a great deal of variety in interactions, battle strategy, even story progression. It has -lots- of replayability for those reasons. The game's difficulty progression is good, the enemies are varied in both type, strategy and difficulty and the bosses aren't too hard, but far from easy either.

Essentially, this is a game I've spent a great deal of time playing and highly recommend if you're looking for something that's got a deep story, can offer a good challenge and has romance elements. Perhaps the game's visual design might be on the cutesy side and that may not appeal to certain people, but I'd still recommend giving it a look. Even if it's a cursory look at their wiki entry or screenshots, it's worth the time.

Thanks for reading, assuming you did, because I ramble quite a bit. Lol.

EDIT: I don't know why I didn't think to say this when I wrote it yesterday. I encourage any feedback. Improvements you think I could make to this and future pieces I plan to write, as well as just general comments. If you checked out the game, what you thought, what impression it gave if you say, went to look at the wiki article or checked some screens and other materials on GameSpot or GameFAQs, etc. I am not writing this simply to satisfy my own ends, I want input if there's any to be had. Please, feel free to leave your criticisms, suggestions and/or comments.
"Insanity is just a state of mind." ~ Capt. B.F. "Hawkeye" Pierce
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Re: Riviera: The Promised Land (Wonderswan) 2002

Postby ss4gogeta069 » Mon May 11, 2015 7:10 am

Fiend, this is an excellent review. You have me interested in it. Knowing it hit GBA and PSP I'll be playing it soon.
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Re: Riviera: The Promised Land (Wonderswan) 2002

Postby PikaFiend » Mon May 11, 2015 9:26 am

Well, good, I'm glad to hear it, it's a fun game.
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